As a Troop Leader my Warrant Officer was the guiding force behind all personnel decisions. I wasn't just sitting there reading Sentinel, but I would never make a decision about one of our soldiers without first going to the WO. For the record his recommendation was always the course of action selected. In the field, tactics were more my "domain", but I still took my WOs and Sgts aside to get their advice first when I could. When I was suddenly in command of a tank squadron for two days in the field as a Lt (the grown-ups had all been pulled away) I grabbed the Troop WOs and the Sqn Ops Sgt for thirty minutes to come up with a way forward. When a combat team exercise was falling apart with regards to tank-infantry cooperation I turned to my old Germany hand Sergeant in front of the assembled Troop/Platoon and asked him to "please un-**** us." Officers in some other armies don't have that luxury.
I'm glad to hear that you were graced with high quality SNCOs to work with.
However, my first tour as a Pl Comd in the regular army was made more interesting by the fact that a) I took over the platoon while they were on operations 2) they had been commanded by the Pl Sgt for about a year and he was universally hated by the troops, who accused him of stealing the platoon fund, beating people up, hitting on their wives/girlfriends etc etc 3) he basically ignored me from the get go, did nothing to make my job easier and ran an intimidation program to maintain control even though I was 'the boss'.
After about a week of this, it became clear to me that this guy should go, but the OC and CSM were apparently oblivious to his faults and was adamant that he stay. I suspect, to this day, that he 'had something' on them both, but can't prove it. When I first watched the movie 'Platoon' I immediately recognized this guy as the character played by Tom Berenger, 'Sgt Barnes, except that my guy had a large, evil looking herpes lesion on his lip vs. Berenger's facial scar (ewww).
So what to do? Brand new 2Lt, troops in combat in a pretty tough area and they had been IED'd before - no casualties thankfully - but were pretty nervous, Pl 2IC is a card carrying d*ckhead who is apparently covered in teflon, I'm the 'new guy' in the crowd and they hadn't been led by an officer for about a year: all the odds seemed stacked against me.
Well, I just fell back on doing what I was trained to do - lead.
And by that I mean 'going first' ..... alot. So, starting with the basics, I went out with almost every patrol, whether I was running the show or not, to find out what made people tick and to build my own confidence. I literally went first through every hedge, fence, doorway and stream crossing. I took my turn on sangar duty. I search hundreds of cars. I developed and issued proper orders. I studiously avoided being 'chummy' with people at all costs, apart from sharing the occasional brew up or mess tin of scoff. I inspected everything, but not always in the 'stand by your beds' style, more like poking my nose in and asking questions. I led area cleaning patrols to pick up the garbage around our static locations ("It might be booby trapped sir so we don't touch it" - yeah, right). I issued orders directly to the secion/brick commanders and avoided the 'filtering' of information through the Pl Sgt. I'm afraid that I didn't ask for much advice, but what we were doing wasn't really rocket science, and I was able to convey pretty good direction from the top to the frontline. I developed a good working relationship with the CQMS, he had my 'Sgt Barnes' figured out, who looked after our guys when the Pl Sgt wasn't.
After about a month, people just started to accept me as a neutral third party and started aligning with me and what I was doing. No one got killed or injured, we worked hard, people got happier, Sgt D*ckhead was marginalized and spent most of his time in base, life went on...
So what helped?
1) I didn't care what anyone thought of me, or ask much advice or permission. I just saw what I thought needed to be done and did it in a 'follow me' kind of way. Call it 'the courage of my convictions' mixed in with a pinch of sheer bloody mindedness and a dash of blissful ignorance.
2) I was the platoon's 'Energizer Bunny'. I'd had a solid grounding in the 'principles' of being an Officer during my training, which were really quite simple, as well as in some basic leadership and technical skills - like reading a map, basic tactics and weapons handling, and the orders process. I was one of the fittest guys in the platoon. I poked around in everything and was active doing all sorts of wierd things, like combat garbage patrols. People were confident that I had the right values, I guess, and I gained more confidence in every little task I took on.
3) I was seen as different from my soldiers in some key areas e.g., I'd had a couple of years of college, was not from the ranks and didn't have any of that kind of baggage (and I saw some Officers, who were from the ranks, struggling), and was more 'mission focused' and didn't need to hang around and be 'one of the boys' or swing the lamp to influence people to get things done.
4) The resiliency of the rifle company. It's like a human body: if one part starts to fail another steps in to take over; like the senior Cpl who started to take on more Pl Sgt level responsibilities, or the CQ who spent a little more time helping my platoon. Everyone was well trained and experienced in their jobs too, so there was no need to be worried about Pte. Bloggins because he didn't know how to do an ambush etc.
Would it have helped if I had had spent time in the ranks or held a Masters degree? Thinking back, I seriously doubt it, but this is a very subjective experience and what worked for me might not for another person.
IMHO, whatever you need, apart from your rank, position and basic values, to have the courage of your convictions and the energy and personal confidence to lead from the front when required, are the basic skills required of a commissioned Officer.